Barca 1, Espanyol 0, a.k.a. “We’ll take it.”

A ride for you too, Captain Caveman!
A ride for you too, Captain Caveman!


In this match of two halves, the view as to whether we got away with one or got our just desserts, will depend upon the status of your glass, and whether its color is Blaugrana.

No doubt, the Parakeets are still chirping about the penalty that counted for the only goal of the match, and maybe they should be. But more about that later, because I want to take these first few paragraphs to celebrate my Man of the Match, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. My view, by the by, on what I could give whether anyone agrees with me, falls into the rat’s ass category.

When the deal was made that brought him to Barcelona, there was some pretty widespread howling. And yes, he still has a ways to go to duplicate the achievements and status of the man that he replaced. But for me, one staggering first half play shows why he’s worth every penny of what we paid. A long, slightly off pass from Pique (kinda the story of his day) was spanked to him, one that by all rights should have rolled harmlessly to the Espanyol defense. But he somehow sticks a leg out to control it, then tap a perfectly weighted back heel to Pedro!, who sends a slightly off (again) return ball to Ibrahimovic who, with a defender in his back pocket, plays keepe-uppe until he can round to face the bewildered defender, before making a neat pass to continue the attack.

It showed off every facet of this dude’s skill set: strength, flexibility, creativity, talent. The GolTV broadcast kept showing the replay, as if they, too, were trying to get their minds around what just happened, because it almost looked normal in real time. When you tack that atop his playmaking, inch-perfect passes and constant threat when he was on the pitch, even though he only scored a penalty that wasn’t, this was one of his best matches in the colors.

And boy, did we need it. Things got off to a weird start as almost right off the start. Espanyol showed what they were going to be about today as a long ball found Pique’s man on his inside, leading to a scramble that was snuffed out by the defense. But the gauntlet was down, as another team rolled into our home to play the match of their lives. We were ready for it in the first half, with absurd possession stats. We weren’t in the second, a half defined by stupid play, horrid passes and near misses for them, either from offside flags or Puyol interventions.

Guardiola rolled out with a lineup that should have been enough to put the stonk in, had we and Espanyol been playing to form: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, The Yaya, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!, Henry and Ibrahimovic. And it bounced back from that initial scare beautifully, proceeding to put a yellow boot down on the match, with all the traffic being one way, toward Kameni, a man who is really starting to piss me off. Every keeper has strengths and weaknesses, and his strengths are precisely what we don’t need: immense quickness and great hands. So all those balls that slide through the box with lesser keepers, that Cameroonian bugger just grabs hold of, calmly, as another scoring chance goes away.

But then, Pedro! did pretty much the one good thing that he did all match, pouncing on a poor clearance to intercept a pass and roll in on Kameni, who was probably thinking, “I’m screwed.” Then P! got the yips, and wasn’t even close with the shot, on a play that really should have sent us off to the races. An early goal would have crushed their confidence, and got us moving in the right direction. But it wasn’t to be, and they hunkered down, playing defense and waiting for an error, allowing our offense its full flower.

Henry was showing why he belongs on that left wing, winning corner after corner with pace and control, and Iniesta was a little demon in the center, the other player (besides The Yaya) that didn’t make you wonder who just did that bit of brilliance, as those pale legs intercepted passes, made stops and went dervishing about the pitch.

But the ridiculous clearance by Captain Caveman that led to an excellent long-range blast from Espanyol, pretty much defined the day. Yes, Valdes made an excellent save, but they were clearly a side waiting to pounce on any error that we made. And boy, did we make a pig pile of ’em, any one of which would have been a goal against a better side. Puyol made his, Pique made his, Alves kept on making them and Maxwell made the king of them all. Now, I imagine that there won’t be debates about any of these, but every last one of them was an appalling error that a championship defender isn’t supposed to make in a 1-0 match.

Ibrahimovic and Henry were at the center of almost everything good in the first half, as they began to develop a working rapport with each other in a match that looked like it was going to get more goals than it in fact did. Pedro! made an excellent run and a cut-back pass that was the first (and really, only) instance that you could say “Boy, we needed Messi.” His pass plopped into the exact spot that our Argentine maestro would have filled, then spanked past the keeper. As it was, it fell to nobody, and that was that.

The play was chippy, as Espanyol’s defensive theory was “when in doubt, foul ’em.” A long-overdue first yellow card at about the 18-minute mark didn’t even stop this tactic, and then came The Play.

It started out beautifully, as Ibrahimovic’s hard pass found Henry in his element, controlling a ball and going off to the races to create an opportunity for a teammate. The ensuing chaos found Ibrahimovic again as the playmaker, as he sent in a beautiful lob to Xavi, who, it appeared from the initial angle, got a little shove from the Espanyol defender. Down he went, and the penalty was called.

As it turns out, the call was rather beneficial, and certainly generous. I don’t think that Xavi took a dive, as gimlet-headed Phil Schoen accused him of, but the little touch coincided with Xavi losing his footing while trying to get under Ibra’s pass, making it look worse than it was. Ibrahimovic or Henry probably don’t get that call, but Xavi did. Beauty of it is that it allowed Ibrahimovic to (rightfully so) take his first penalty shot for us, a blast into the corner that was past Kameni before he had a chance to react. Good thing, too, since Kameni guessed right, as he’d been doing for the entire match to that point.

We rolled into the second half and everything was different. An awful play by Pique had the danger snuffed out by a colossal The Yaya, but Espanyol were getting braver as they chased the match, looking for the opportunity to smear egg on their no longer crosstown rivals. Valdes made yet another excellent play, then a loose touch from Pedro! killed another attack, before one of my favorite moments of the match arrived.

Iniesta got fouled yet again by a pair of Espanyol players, and the one that was trying to continue play, got a most excellent forearm shiver from The Yaya, and a look which very eloquently said, “Dude, that’s enough of that shit.” I loved it. The ref wasn’t going to call anything on The Yaya, because that was how the match was rolling, and The Yaya knew it. And the time was right, as things were in the balance.

Keita subbed in for Pedro!, at a perfect time, since P! perfectly demonstrated why he isn’t quite ready for full-on prime time yet. He took a pass from Alves, who kept moving, expecting a give-and-go. P! accepted the pass and played with the ball a bit before returning it to Alves. By that time the Espanyol defense had re-set, and the moment was lost.

And maybe that moment upset Alves to a degree that made him stupid. Because first he threw up a bad pass, then a throw-in that sent Espanyol off to the races, as we started playing as though we had a 5-goal lead, instead of a 1-goal difference. The midfield was invisible and we were on the back foot, but Puyol was resolute. Even Iniesta laid off a shit-tastic pass that sent Espanyol off on the break, but the defense dealt with it beautifully.

One of the highlights of the half was the shambling, rumbling run from The Yaya that was just stopped by a last-ditch tackle in the box as a charging Ibrahimovic sends not one, but two Espanyol players to the pitch. No, we didn’t score, but I can’t help loving when we give back some of the physical crap that we take. Hit ’em harder, I say.

Then came the implementation of a little-known rule in La Liga, in which a team must, whenever possible, substitute a player that is exactly half the size of the player that he is replacing. This explains the Krkic for Ibrahimovic substitution. It has to, right?

Valdes kicked out the jams in the 80th minute with a play that shows exactly why he is the perfect keeper for us. A long pass found Pique smoked by his attacker, but there was Valdes, way out of the box, to easily deal with the ball in his sweeper keeper role. And Guardiola was off the bench looking worried, because he could see what we all could: 1-goal lead, lackadaisical play and a team ready to pounce on every error.

But it just kept going. Busquets came in for The Yaya, a like-for-like (sort of) swap. And Krkic kept losing balls that life-sized strikers would have claimed. Valdes puts the smack down on an Espanyol free kick. Alves knocks off another crappy pass that Busquets calmly dealt with, then Maxwell tried to kill me via heart attack, as he slid a ball toward Puyol that looked as if he should have been wearing Espanyol colors. The defense dealt with it, converging on the Espanyol attacker who (thankfully) stumbled a bit as he realized the magnitude of what was resting on his shoulders. And that was that.

So we escape, because that’s what it was, really, as a match that should have been easily controlled turned worrisome as normally reliable players lost their collective minds. A number of those uncertain moments were caused by an annoying tendency on the part of our defense, to head balls that they could easily play with their feet, a more secure and reliable option. Pique does it, Busquets does it, as does Maxwell. Puyol hardly ever does, because he understands that headed balls are pretty much never as accurate as a pass with the foot.

Just saying.

Team: 5. This began life as a 10, then the second half pulled things down. Brutal, but that’s life. You take your foot off the gas when you have a 5-goal lead, not a miniscule 1-goal sliver.

Guardiola: 7. He vexes me sometimes. Why Krkic for Ibrahimovic? Are 10 minutes going to kill him? I called the Keita for Pedro! swap, and Busquets for The Yaya was obvious. His starting XI should have been enough, but he needs to work on his halftime speeches, apparently.

Valdes: 9. Brilliant, despite the shit-talking Schoen. Killer save on the long shot, and fulfilling the sweeper keeper role to perfection.

Alves: 6. Man, he was brilliant in that first half, with strong defense and incisive, ambitious passing. Then it all went pear-shaped in the second. You know, he was better with his other ears.

Pique: 5. His passing was off all night, and he kept getting outrun. No, he can’t be blamed for genetics, but he can be blamed for the positioning that makes those genetic deficiencies apparent. He made a number of very good plays, then would do something to cancel out his goodness.

Puyol: 7. Very good match from Captain Caveman, particularly at crucial moments of the second half, when everything around him was falling apart.

Maxwell: 6. See Alves. Holy shit, dude! Way to take a very good match and blow it all to hell in the last 10 minutes. Concentration. Concentration. Being a great player is mental and physical. Shame, because he was tearing up the terra in the first half.

The Yaya: 7. Very good match, with some fine defensive play. You can see why Guardiola would prefer Busquets in some matches. We almost need a post on the The Yaya vs Busquets differences, but defensive mid vs deep-lying playmaker gets at the heart of the matter.

Xavi: 6. Again, strong first half, then donned the cloak of invisibility in the second, a time when we needed his stability and control.

Iniesta: 6. Started out great, then seemed to run out of steam. This is probably expected, since he’s still playing his way back from injury and illness, but that first half of his was absolutely magical.

Pedro! 5. Pretty much ineffective, aside from a couple of good moments that he didn’t do anything with. His deficiencies for me are still decision making and speed of play.

Henry: 7. He isn’t back, but he’s getting there. This was his best match in a while. His ability to create space, control the ball in traffic and make good passes while on the move were all on display today.

Ibrahimovic: 8. Tailed off just a bit from his magical first half, but played an exceptional match. He seems to be getting better, which is a good sign for us, and a bad sign for our opponents.


Keita (for Pedro!): 7. I really liked what he brought to the side. His pace and physical presence were vital in the midfield at a time when things were getting really messy.

Krkic (for Ibrahimovic): 3. Ran around, looked cute, didn’t do a damned thing. He was playing in the center? With grownups? No way.

Busquets (for The Yaya): 6. He was legginess and energy in just the right part of the pitch, at the right time. Made a couple of key interventions. With more time, would almost certainly have played to a higher rating.

So, now we are on the verge of what is going to be an extremely difficult part of the season for us, with no Keita or The Yaya, and no viable answer for that DM role. Some were hoping, I’m sure, that Marquez might be capable of being pressed into duty there, but no freakin’ way. My heart can’t take such things. Is there an option in the January transfer window? Good question. Lots of rumors, nothing credible. And Txiki B is being inscrutable, so we’re in wait and see mode on that one.

Is there a DM option on the bench? I wouldn’t mind trying Txigrinski there. He has the size and skills, but not the pace. But given that a DM’s job is to keep things in front of them and make the right pass, he might be worth a look in the absence of signings. Particularly now that we have a healthy Milito back in the fold.

And the season continues. EE won today, and we will probably return from the World Club Championships with a 2-point lead, as that match in hand that we have goes away while we’re frolicking in the warmth and sun of Abu Dhabi. January will be crucial to our championship hopes on every level.

I know …. Duh!

As usual, a little bit of joy.

Yeah, baby! It's bigger than my head!
Yeah, baby! It's bigger than my head!
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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


    • Luna
      December 12, 2009

      It looked like a Sex Pistols but then again the older Sex Pistols image has been used by other outfits

    • Luna
      December 12, 2009

      Oh no, correction via ONTD_FB, it’s a Dsquared shirt, rip on the SEx pistols

    • Dave
      December 12, 2009

      Ha, I though it was a picture of Ronaldinho.

  1. stowe
    December 12, 2009

    good to hear Henry is starting to play well. I wonder if having Ibra focus on working with him in the absence of Messi is helping with that. Sad to hear that Pedro had a poor game. And I haven’t seen this match but Busquets really impressed me in Kiev

  2. Luna
    December 12, 2009

    Nice Review!

    I thought maybe Pep subbed Bojan for Ibra b/c there was a danger he could get another yellow? Ibra, not sure if you’ve noticed, is really becoming irritated with how refs are refusing to call the constant pulling and poking he’s receiving? It also seems as if refs are not used to his style of play and are calling him for things he’s used to doing previously.

    I loved the Yaya run up the middle, the earth shook, the players trembled, and Yaya went forth!

    The interesting thing about the penalty is the reaction from the Barca online fans I’ve read. Folks were like woah that wasn’t a penalty. Very different than EE fan reaction when they get a questionable penalty. I was actually surpised, I mean a penalty going Barca’s way, on a play that didn’t seem like a PK? Usually our players have to get hacked and hacked and hacked, and then maybe there is a call.

    • Jnice
      December 13, 2009

      Yeah, Kxevin, Pep said he subbed out Ibra because there was a chance he could get another yellow because of how physical the match was and what not. i mean you saw how those Espanyol boys were protesting and flopping, right? A itty bitty challenge from Ibra could have made one of them flop and act like he had stabbed their leg and bam, he’s off.

  3. waleed
    December 12, 2009

    I’m not going to argue the numbers as they’ll be always controversial, and this one is not an exception, but the Ibra-Bojan swap was explained by Pep after the match as protecting Ibra from receiving a second yellow card, and I see it completely justified as he was getting more and more agitated! and the 2nd call was only a matter of time!

    • waleed
      December 12, 2009

      for the penalty, if you go by the book it IS one,there was a contact and Xavi lost balance rather than diving! but refs usually overlook situations like these, and i think the ref tried to make it for them by keeping the colored cards in his pockets while they were doing their fight club thing.

      • UAI
        December 12, 2009

        It was definitely no penalty. As Kevin said, a less squeky clean player would not have gotten the call.

        It did not look like a dive to me either.

  4. December 12, 2009

    “We almost need a post on the The Yaya vs Busquets differences”

    How ’bout it?

  5. Didim
    December 12, 2009

    Thanks for the Review Kxev. didn’t get to watch the match.
    and btw, is there any video link for that ibra skills that Kxev mention? I haven’t found any. Thx.

  6. Kxevin
    December 13, 2009

    Good point on the second yellow for Ibra, particularly in light of upcoming matches. Somehow, that first yellow for dissent escaped me.

  7. majatt (Maximus)
    December 13, 2009

    Is it just me or in the first half did the shots seem a little rushed? I saw Henry in particular take a ranged shot when they could have worked the ball a bit more. Maybe they were under instruction to shoot on sight? It seemed like some frustration coming though.

    It’s almost funny that we were playing so much better last season yet we are 1 point ahead of where we were in the league. Completed our CL group as first, are in the next round of the CDR and going off to the club world cup.

    • stowe
      December 13, 2009

      i thought someone said we needed to shoot more instead of trying to pass it into the goal like against dynamo

      • Maximus
        December 13, 2009

        Well that someone wasn’t me, I can assure you. I think we need to be more clinical but patience won a treble not shooting on sight.

  8. Boat Forever
    December 13, 2009

    Stats so far this season, in the order of La Liga, Champions League, CDR, Super Copa & Uefa Super Cup

    Goals :

    Messi_____ 9,2,1,2,0 = 14
    Ibra______11,1,0,0,0 = 12
    Pedro_____ 3,2,3,1,1 = 10
    Keita______ 6,0,0,0,0 = 6
    Bojan_____ 1,0,2,1,0 = 4
    Pique_____ 2,1,0,0,0 = 3
    Xavi______ 0,1,1,1,0 = 3
    Alves_____ 2,0,0,0,0 = 2
    Henry_____ 2,0,0,0,0 = 2

    Assists :

    Ibra______ 5,1,0,1,0 = 7
    Xavi______ 5,1,0,1,0 = 7
    Alves_____ 5,1,0,1,0 = 7
    Messi_____ 5,0,0,0,1 = 6
    Pedro_____ 1,0,1,1,0 = 3
    Busquets__ 3,0,0,0,0 = 3
    Iniesta____ 2,0,1,0,0 = 3
    Keita_____ 2,0,0,0,0 = 2
    Maxwell___ 2,0,0,0,0 = 2
    Abidal_____ 1,1,0,0,0 = 2
    Jeffren____ 0,0,2,0,0 = 2
    Bojan_____ 0,0,1,0,0 = 1
    Henry_____ 0,1,0,0,0 = 1
    Puyi______ 1,0,0,0,0 = 1
    JDS_______ 0,0,1,0,0 = 1

  9. Lumi
    December 13, 2009

    Did anyone see the look Pep gave that Esp. Player at the touchline?

    • Khairallah
      December 13, 2009

      lol yeah that was great, i also loved how Pique started getting keen on kicking their studs.. Also, when he bent over next to some dude in the penalty box and acted like he was fixing his socks, probably giving him a load of trash talk for making an act out of his collision with Pique..

  10. Liza
    December 13, 2009

    Pretty disappointing game, but I’m glad we got the three points. Valdes was my MotM, simply because without him being as good as he was, this could have been a disaster.

    Kxevin, I’m more excited about your travel review than your game review. Are you still planning on doing that?

  11. December 13, 2009


    Henry playing much, much better
    Yaya sighting
    Pedro continuing to show flashes
    Ibra continuing to become a leading number 9


    An inability to play a full 90 minutes in non-crunch games (i.e. Inter, last Dynamo game, Real etc)
    Defensive lapses from both full backs
    Real playing really well without Kaka and Ronaldo

  12. BL
    December 13, 2009

    “no viable answer for that DM role” hmm… this is just getting annoying now.

  13. Khairallah
    December 13, 2009

    There couldn’t be anything more entertaining than Madrid press after they get a victory without the help of the ref.. They’re now going into the history of Iturralde and studying how frequent his penalty givings are, how he has given Barca 5 penalties in the last 6 games he reffed, of course failing to mention whether they were real penalties or not..
    In another place, Iturralde wins the game for Barcelona and a brace from Higuain does it for Madrid..
    Let them bask in the glory of winning a match in which they actually played well, as did Valencia had their defense not been crap, doesn’t happen often..
    Anyway, Xavi says it was a penalty, he says Baena admitted it to him.. and for me, that’s all I need. This is Xavi, not CR9 nor Higuain, nor Alves or Busquets, he’s an honest non diver and Madrid press can shove it..

  14. Lumi
    December 13, 2009

    It seems the team is content with any form of win i can’t say if it’s good or bad Maybe Isaiah or Kxevin is in a better position to shed more light on the Issue

    • Kxevin
      December 13, 2009

      I don’t know what kind of position I’m in, Lumi, but I’d say that a win’s a win. I think that the subset to “Mes que un club” should be “Just win, baby” (with apologies to Al Davis).

      We’re better in the Liga, and came out of a much more difficult Champions League group in about the same shape, points-wise. And people are only now rounding into form. In about a month, we should really be rolling.

      –Speaking of EE, it looks as if they’ve lost Pepe for quite some time to a knee injury. Ouch.

      • stowe
        December 13, 2009

        man, i hate to see players get hurt, especially knees. even if it is that other club

  15. Kxevin
    December 13, 2009

    Xavi on the match:

    “Baena fouled me and stopped me from challenging for the ball.”

    “He admitted it on the pitch….”They wanted to spoil our rhythm by fouling. It was an ugly game that, fortunately, we won.”

    As I (still) say, from one angle it looks to be a very clear touch from the defender that unsettled Xavi. From another, it doesn’t look to be so clear.

    The EE pundits can just go suck it with their penalty analysis bullshit. They’ve received how many this season? And how many were actually deserved? We’ve had some that might have been in another world, but weren’t in this one. And that’s life.

  16. Lumi
    December 13, 2009

    I wish him the lenghtiest of recoveries

    • BL
      December 13, 2009

      haha 🙂 pepe has got to me in the top 3 of my most reviled players of all time list. what a colossal douchebag!

  17. Lumi
    December 13, 2009

    A Barcelona Defender coming back from the sidelines and an EE player returning to the abyss Yin-Yang is really coming into LaLiga.

  18. Jim
    December 13, 2009

    Good review, Kxevin. Wouldn’t argue with Ibra as MOM, not because I necessarily thought his contribution was the best but because he is obviously making a huge effort to fit in with our style which involves him in a lot more work for the team. Still not there yet but the signs are encouraging.

    I reckon one of the reasons for the dip in the second half was the subbing of Pedro (61 mins) . Although he wasn’t doing much, the moving of Iniesta to fill that position maybe affected the midfield balance and coincided with the nervy last half hour.

    The reappearance of Yaya confirmed for me that he is our number one for that position. He has incredibly quick feet for someone that size but more importantly he doesn’t have Busi’s showboating tendency. We are never better than when he and Xavi are coming short and picking up the short pass from the defence – it would stop some of these misplaced longer ones from our back four for a start. Chignasty isn’t for me an option there. I’ve said before about his inability to tackle with both feet, an essential in Yaya’s position but I also don’t think he has the quick feet/brain required.

    Lest you still think my Abidal comments are personal to him I said in another post that I needed to see more of Maxwell but I thought Abidal was probably our best LB. Don’t think Maxwell changed that today. I think he is more sound positionally but Abidal doesn’t make the simple errors when in possession that Maxwell did.

    Finally, can I also put in a plea for your travels post? Looking for some ideas for my holiday in Barcelona this summer 🙂

    • December 13, 2009

      I am still training myself to switch to a reader, not up to that yet 🙂

      Yaya yesterday was not better than Busquets against Kiev.

      Alright, back to reading. More fun.

      • Kxevin
        December 13, 2009

        You’re right. In context, both got the same rating.

      • BL
        December 13, 2009

        true, but you can see what other tools yaya brings to the table that busquets doesn’t possess. i love them both for different reasons and yaya is The Man without question, but i firmly believe we are going to be more than fine playing busi for the stretch that yaya is away for.

    • Kxevin
      December 13, 2009

      Jim, I don’t in any way think that your Abidal comments are personal. I call what you reference the “Wandering Eric” syndrome. I just think, as you do, that he’s our best option, and can usually cover for most of his errors with pace and physicality.

      Maxwell was having an excellent match, then fell completely apart at the end, almost killing us (twice). Too bad. I think that with more time and against the right opponent, he’s a viable resource who could start with no problem.

      I’m working on that travels post, but it will probably be once the matches aren’t flying so hot and heavy, during the break. 😀

  19. Cesc Blanc
    December 13, 2009

    It’s a pity you didn’t touch on the greatest miracle ever in the ciutat comtal derbi. The fact that Forlin and Ivan Alonso didn’t get sent off. I mean, the two were begging for the red card. Ivan Alonso already in the first half with that foul on Pique but the challenge in the second half against Henry I believe was even worse. Forlin was just begging Iturralde to get a second yellow. I guess he missed out programming on TiVo the Spanish version of Dancing with the Stars or something else. I mean, the penalty shouldn’t have been but there was a penalty before on Ibra and at least 2 red cards on Espanyol. So it makes it even nicer to read today on AS about Villarato.

    • BL
      December 13, 2009

      yeah the “throat rape” on zlatan was insane and the ref was right there… i always find it amusing how big football players seem have fouls ignored on them all the time, i remember seeing crouch whistled for fouls constantly where he would just stand there and the defender would jump and flail at him.

      • December 14, 2009

        Its even worse as a youth. One of the reasons I play keeper is because when I was young, coaches kept telling me to use my body, ect. But all the short kids would just fucking fall over, and it just looks bad when a tall and short person collide an the tall one remains standing, regardless of how legal the tackle was.

        The real irony is that as a keeper, I can pretty much do as much damage as I want, as long as I touch the ball. Quite the double standard, but moreprofoundf that USA reffing is in general pretty crappy.

  20. Hector
    December 13, 2009

    I’m gonna say something that nobody has said yet: Pochettino is a HELL of a coach stuck with a shitty team. His overall tactics and strategy in the second half was brilliant and risky given his resources. It almost paid off too. Here’s what I saw (*rant alert*)-

    – This is one of the few teams that gave us a dose of our own medicine in the high pressure department. Their backline went upfield and they covered ALL of our backline when we tried to play the ball out. When this happens, Yaya or Xavi usually just come back to help play the ball out. Most teams are too afraid to put three or four men up the field to pressure our defenders when we have the ball. Pochettino had a guy on Xavi AND Yaya when they tracked back to help play the ball out. He knew that we ALWAYS play the ball out from the back. This high pressure drastically decreased our margin for error and provoked a series of mistakes which they were VERY close to exploiting. They were just waiting for ourselves to shoot ourselves in the foot and we did. Multiple times.

    This was risky as hell because the door was open for long balls to break their offside traps. However, Ibra, as good as he is, is not he fastest guy in the world, and they have some very good athletic CB’s in Pareja (who I pray gets called up to the Argy NT for the WC) and Forlin that have the pace to keep up in the open field. What Pep did was have IBRA come all the way back past center midfield to help play the ball out and use Henry and Pedro to threaten their high line. The problem? This gave us a conundrum: either isolate our fullbacks on the wings or have Iniesta and Xavi help them out at the expense of leaving only Zlatan and Yaya to man center midfield. The result was that Henry and Pedro usually had to track back to help the fullbacks and we did not effectively test their high defensive line much less make them pay for it. The few times we managed to play the ball out quickly despite the high pressure, we got some excellent chances (Maxwell’s and Henry’s) that we should have converted but we did not do it nearly often enough.

    Who is the best man in the world to remedy this? To threaten a high line with speed and help play the ball out quickly? Leo Messi…but he was in the stands. I am guessing Poche knew this. Our problems started from the back today. You gotta give Poche credit because they did not park the bus despite being the inferior team. They came out and played us toe to toe with what they had and gave us a hell of a run for our money.

    – Espanyol is also the only team I have seen capable of taking us out of our game mentally EVERY damn time we play them. They play hard, dirty, use tactical fouls, spread around yellow cards among their players on purpose, feign injury to hamper the flow of the game, insult our guys, and manipulate the ref. They are not the only team to do this but for some reason they are the ones who always seem to drag us into that same game and turn the game into a slow, physical sloppy-fest. We have to learn to NOT fall for that. Its a credit to them that they dragged us in there. Are they dirty? Yes. Is Iturralde one of the worse refs in the WORLD (I hate him BTW)? Yes. Is it an excuse? No.

    *Rant Over*

    BTW I gotta feel for Pepe despite the whole being EE thing and the Casquero attacking incident. He had a busted ACL which means that not only is the season over for him but he will possibly miss the WC. I would never wish that on anybody.

    Look for RM to go centerback hunting in the winter market. They still have Metzelder and Garay but the former is very injury prone and the latter is still a rookie. They could move Ramos to CB (his natural position IMO) and Arbeloa to his natural right FB spot but that would leave Marcelo and Drenthe on the left (I can just hear the screams of Madridista horror at that thought). This is like us losing Pique for the season. It hurts them (and Portugal for that matter) a lot. It will be worth keeping an eye on.

    • Cesc Blanc
      December 13, 2009

      Pochettino and Pep took the same coaching courses together. They have a similar approach to football. They are also apparently good friends off the court.
      I really think that if it wasn’t for the tragic death of Dani Jarque and the shenannigans around Tamudo, Espanyol could and would be a top 6 team

    • Eduard
      December 13, 2009

      this is why I keep coming back to this site. Love those long comments!

      I’ll disagree with the Pepe comment. It sucks for him specially since he might miss the WC; However, he has no class and I’m not going to loose any sleep over it. If it was Van De Vart or Kaka(players with more class) I’d feel sorry for them. Not Pepe though.

      Madrid wont sign anyone in the Winter transfer window. They spent too much money in the summer, right?

      • Helge
        December 13, 2009

        For me, it’s twice as much schadenfreude to see Pepe out for the rest of the season, because it also improves the chances of Ivory Coast to advance. Real Madrid can buy a replacement for him, but Portugal can’t.
        I didn’t wish or pray for Pepe to get heavily injured, but now that it happened, I’m fine with it. Maybe it can be seen as a late payback for his outrageous moves against Getafe…
        There’s from my point of view no player who really deserves such an injury, but if there’s one player who comes close to it, it’s definitely him.

        • Alexis
          December 13, 2009

          Who knows Helge? Maybe the beginning of his injury was caused by the few kicks he gave to the Getafe player! 🙂 And then he torned his ligaments when falling yesterday!
          That would be ironical…

      • florentino perez
        December 13, 2009

        Eduard yes we spent a lot but that doesn’t mean we’re bankrupted 🙂 , welre still the richest club in the world and will cough up money if we need to , Ortmendi ( he plays in the argentinian league at velez ) is the guy that will come in to replace pepe in january we’ve been after him for some time now

        And you Cules seriously think that that xavi penalty was a legit call ? Hahaha ahem

        • Alexis
          December 13, 2009

          Keep on spending baby! Keep on spending! One of these days a few #ankers (bankers) will be knocking on your door and asking you to grab as many belongings as you can and leave the Bernabeu for good…that would be curious to see…

        • jordi
          December 13, 2009

          Nah Madrid need a CB so FloPe will buy Pato obviously 🙂

          • florentino perez
            December 13, 2009

            Alexis , im assuming that you’re kidding and that you know more about real madrid than that , that day you’re anticipating will come sorry to disappoint you , we’re the biggest revenue generating club there is we make more than a 150 mil a year thanx to TV revenues alone , add to that the merchandises we sell , tickets revenues , the extra 70 mil each kaka and ronaldo bring us throught shirt sells , image rights , sponsorship deals etc… we will recoup the money we spent this summer in two years max even without having to win a thing on the pitch 🙂

            Jordi nah forget pato , i heard that jessica simpson is a great center back , so we will move for her in januarry

        • Eduard
          December 13, 2009

          Madrid doesn’t have any capital. You guys just have assets(worth only what the market will pay for them) and billions in debt. Boust about that!!!

          • florentino perez
            December 13, 2009

            Billions in debt ? Since when does 300 mil = billions ?
            You also say we have no assets at all

            Where do you get your infos from lol did you just decide to make this up or are you just badly misunformed ?

          • Eduard
            December 13, 2009

            I remember it being more than 300 million, and I didn’t say you guys didn’t any assets, because you guys do.

          • florentino perez
            December 13, 2009

            Tyler your fellow cules were wondering what we would do now that pepe was hurt how we were gonna replace him then I told them what I our plans were , which lead to one of them saying that we keep spending and stuff which also lead to the revenue talk
            before you run your mouth you should make sure you know what you’re jumping into amigo ,and we may lack the silverware right now but we won’t be back lacking them forever you better believe that , these things are cyclical tand we will take our rightful place as the kings of spain next season at the latest 🙂

            O And you’re really showing your class with that pepe comment

        • Kxevin
          December 13, 2009

          It was no more or less legit than the dive that Ronaldo took to earn a penalty, that he then decided not to celebrate because he was too busy pouting about not having scored it. Or maybe it was because they guy who did knock in the rebound was in the box early, so he thought that it wasn’t going to count.

          Either way, spare us the talk about beneficial calls, and read the review and the comments. Xavi said it was legit. Very few of us believe it to be so. So what’s your point?

          • drew
            December 13, 2009

            this guy has been reading too much AS and MARCA, which is way too unhealthy for anyone

          • florentino perez
            December 13, 2009

            Kxevin , if you were in ronaldo’s shoes you would have went to the ground and not think even twice about it , he was at full speed and the keeper made contact with him , any striker in the world would have gone down in that situation , in xavi’s case I didn’t see a contact whatsoever , also you need to check the replays again , benzema steeped early but so did the one almeria player that was on ronaldo’s right but why mention that right ?
            Besides ronaldo is ronaldo and he is known for these kinda stuff , the bitching , the diving etc you name it ,

            But xavi Is NOT known to be a diver or is he , at least that’s not how I see him ,so when he does it its a way bigger deal like it or not

          • tyler
            December 13, 2009

            hey “florentino”,

            you never contribute valid commentary. you only come into these forums to stir controversy with tangential arguments such as, how much tv revenue madrid rakes in, or how many shirts you sell.

            -NEWS FLASH-
            we don’t give a rat’s ass. we are tri-campions. we have beaten you three times in a row in head to head competion. we have already won two pieces of silver this season, and there are more to come. now either show some respect, or argue about something that matters – SILVERWARE. oh, and i don’t care how many trophies madrid has won in the past. right now we are first in the league, and we are the reigning champions. i don’t care if you like us or not, but realize all your taunting does not help your lack of silverware.

            furthermore, if you would like to argue about things that matter, such as games, or performances of players in actual games, I’m sure we would more than glad to debate it. otherwise just leave.

            oh, and our condolences to pepe. ; )

          • cliveee
            December 13, 2009

            you didn’t see a contact? maybe pulling shirt is not regarded as one.


  21. SoccerMom
    December 13, 2009

    Hold on barcababies imma letchu finish but the batmen broke mama’s heart yesterday

    • Vj
      December 13, 2009

      Never send boys to do Daddy’s job..

  22. Alexis
    December 13, 2009

    I must admit I am a converse…sorry! I was skeptycal about the swap. Now I think Ibra is like a Swiss knife…he has multi-tools instead of legs!! It amazed me how he played the first half. He was the connector in all the plays. Like Xavi, but a few metres higher up the pitch!
    So I humbly recognise your wisdom Kevin, since you have always defended him.

    PS: why these “periquitos” keep on showing they really are a good team, but only against Barcelona? Just watch at how they will play Madrid, and compare…

    • Eklavya
      December 13, 2009

      ” Ibra is like a Swiss knife…he has multi-tools instead of legs”

      Now that’s a good quote!

    • florentino perez
      December 13, 2009

      we already played them and beat them 3 nil at their own back yard 🙂

        • Kxevin
          December 13, 2009

          Well, I wasn’t the only one defending him, and I do point out that he still hasn’t done what Eto’o has done for the colors. But frankly, I’m pretty convinced that he will, but in his own way. His expansion of the possibilities of our offense is the biggest benefit that he brings to the table.

          Look at how often he started plays, then dashed into the box to try and finish them. He was at both ends of the play that resulted in the Xavi penalty, with the initial pass to Henry, then the lob to Xavi. Then he converted the penalty.

          That stuff is just crazy. I feel like we have big Messi, and little Messi, two players who can single-handedly destroy an opponent.

  23. Lumi
    December 13, 2009

    You are Almost right Hector but pls don’t repeat such coz other Coaches(Mourinho) might be online.

  24. JeffP
    December 13, 2009

    Did anyone catch what Messi’s shirt said? RayRay was freaking out about it but never explained what it said.

    • Helge
      December 13, 2009

      I fear this secret will never be resolved 🙂

      • eklavya
        December 13, 2009

        Did we ever resolve what Henry had tatooed on his wrist?

        • JMo
          December 13, 2009

          it’s a tattoo of his daughter’s name. He kisses it every time he scores.

          He hasn’t been able to be with her since he and his wife split up after he went to play in Spain. That was actually a HUGELY overlooked factor in why his form was not quite “henry” in his first year… amongst other things.

          • Blow-Granite
            December 14, 2009

            That is so amazing – his love for his daughter. I hope he can get to see his daughter more often. The way it looks right now is that he is not even allowed to see his daughter, which is sad!

  25. K
    December 13, 2009

    I know this might be way too late but I found these Treble Celebration videos on youtube





    Reminisce away and if someone can help me with the translation I’ll be very much obliged


  26. Kxevin
    December 13, 2009

    Still no final numbers on the voting today, but polling in the wee hamlet of Sant Jaume de Frontanya indicated that 19 of every 20 voters pulled the lever (so to speak) in the affirmative.

    Mind you, it’s isn’t a true referendum on independence, because the votes are taking place in areas that are known to support independence, with ballot boxes manned by those sympathetic to the cause. (Note that I will avoid the use of loaded words such as “separatist.”)

    • Eduard
      December 13, 2009

      It really doesn’t mean anything(more symbolic than anything), it’s just a politcal ploy to move Catalonia closer to independence. The city that matters most in the vote is Barcelona since that’s the capital of the country.

        • Kxevin
          December 13, 2009

          Thanks for that excellent link, Eduard, as well as the other link within that post. Except I do always wonder why English translations are always Catalonia. When I wrote my Travel section story last year on my trip, the copy desk changed Catalunya to Catalonia, with the simple explainer, “That’s the English spelling.” Weird.

          I mean, I sort of get it, in that Catalunya has come to be thought of as the “sympa” spelling. Still ….

          • Eduard
            December 13, 2009

            NP, NewYorkTimes also have a Zapator perspective on it.

          • December 14, 2009

            It’s just like how “deutchland” or “españa” are always wriiten as “Germany” and “Spain”

            besides, that’s what the AP stylebook says, and you might as well be fighting the word of god at that point.

  27. Alexinho
    December 13, 2009

    -I thought Henry was MOTM, THANK GOD. For the first time all season, and maybe the last time ever, he looked like he deserved the mantle “Dangerman.” He didn’t get a ton of touches–he isn’t supposed to–but every time he got the ball he did something with it. Some crosses, boy. They didn’t “just” deserve better. I could see why Ibra came off for Bojan, the way Henry was playing. I can’t describe how good it was to see him play the way he really can.
    -I was surprised to see Ibra get elected MOTM, since I thought he was just as good as usual.
    -The Yaya, beside Henry, was the most confident man on the field. I didn’t see what he did wrong there. It’s a rare, rare shame that both Xavi AND Iniesta couldn’t match him.

    -Everybody else was fairly trashy, but I want to point out three: Pedro, Iniesta, Pique.
    -Pedro, well he isn’t supposed to be great yet. But for me he was absolutely invisible. Can’t believe he was mentioned so much in the post. I suppose that’s Pedro, though…I’ll let him off with that.
    -For all the defenders that Iniesta can dribble around, he is conspicuously ineffective. I think he’s getting found out about now. On the other hand, the first half of his season last season wasn’t miraculous, before he became what Rooney called the man who “makes that midfield work.” I have faith…but dude!
    -Pique has looked a most craptastic player in the last two matches. Only two matches, but very startling ones. He looks like the most shaky, anxious defender on the field. Like Iniesta, he looks like the guy from the first half of last season rather than the second. I’m sure he’ll be back to the consummate Mr. Reliable very soon.

    -Finally, I think we should call Alves “the archduke of bad passing”….just sometimes.

  28. Mario
    December 13, 2009

    Completely of topic but things are looking bad for Gillette,1st The Henry handball incident and now the Tiger Woods sex scandal. Supposedly they have suspended all advertisement involving those to for a while.

    • Tajh
      December 13, 2009

      Yeah I read that recently 2..they have even start making puns on tiger woods name…saying he isn’t a tiger he’s a cheetah..

      • Eduard
        December 13, 2009

        What’s the difference between Tiger and Santa Clause???

        Santa stopped at 3 ho’s

    • Eduard
      December 13, 2009

      Does that mean Roger federer is next? Nadal back to #1!!!

  29. December 13, 2009

    Youtube goodness all around. The poster has a most excellent channel in which he includes all things Barca from pressers to compilations to game and individual highlights to even Crackovia. I highly recommend subscribing. The Xavi penalty close-up in high def and slow motion. There was definitely a shirt pull and a pretty good possibility that it was a legit trip as he was backtracking and seemed to be pulled off balance. I still honestly think it was a harsh penalty given all the shirt pulling that goes on during every corner kick but technically I guess it was legit.

    This is a piece that highlights how Zlatan has scored 9 of his 12 goals ( 10 of them if you count the penalty) “al primer toque” or “on just the first touch of the ball”. Pretty sweet.

    This is a presser in which Zlatan talks about the Racing game and says “In Santander at the half we were up two or three goals to nothing and the coach told us we have to score more goals, more goals… in five years in Italy that is something I never experienced.” You can just tell how much he enjoys this :D.

    • BL
      December 13, 2009

      i seriously never thought i’d see the day that i’d be saying this, but:

      i friggin love ibra.

      i used to give him a hard time, but i never really knew much about the guy except all the surface crap you read in all the footie rags (bad attitude, disappears in big games, cancer in the locker room etc). but when he was signed and since then i’ve watchws many an interview and many a highlight reel plus (of course) every barça match and i’ve grown to love him thoroughly.

      when i hear that goofy laugh and see that goofy grin, spectacularly split by that gigantic nose i just smile. we’re a privileged bunch to see a puzzle piece of zlatan’s quality fit in so well, so quickly into the most beautiful and complex of puzzles.

      heja zlatan! beautiful big nose is going to get better… and better.

      un toque, un gol… love it.

        • BL
          December 14, 2009

          yes you did, definitely have to give you props for being behind ibra’s transfer from before it was even rumoured. wish i’d known then how amazing he could be at barça.

    • luna
      December 13, 2009

      Hector do you have alink to that presser?

  30. Kxevin
    December 13, 2009

    Damn you, Kitbag! (shakes fist) I was done! Done I tell you. Then you had to go and do a 30% off weekend sale via e-mail list, because you know what a clothing slut I am. 😀

    Hector, that is excellent stuff, and it also shows that Ibrahimovic understands two things: His immense ability, and the scarcity of real scoring chances. For example, if he doesn’t volley that Clasic goal, we probably don’t score. He’s also the kind of player who can one-touch those things. Much respect for P! as someone who represents the colors, but if he could one-touch, he’d be pichichi going away.

    Messi has the ability. He just has to get it back.

  31. Hector
    December 13, 2009

    Just because:

    This Crackovia skit was made right after the Bilbao game when Messi was injured. Its become one of my favorites. Rough translation from my Spanish based Catalan interpretation:

    *Messi is brought in on a stretcher*

    – Pep: Messi! Messi! Are you alright?!
    – Messi: I…I can’t feel my legs!
    – Puyol: Hahaha! Its like el puto Rambo, mister!
    – Pep: Its not important! Ibra is injured and now Messi is too. If he doesn’t recover then who will play forward?
    – Puyol: Well, we have Bojan…
    – Pep and Puyol: AHHHHHH!!!!!
    – Pep: Messi! You have to recover…you HAVE to recover…
    – Puyol: Chill. I helped the Pobla (his hometown) veterinarian when Quequa (his pet sheep in the show) was pregnant. *to Messi* Is it inflamed?
    – Messi: A little.
    – Puyol: Cojonudo. Now we amputate *takes out an ax*.
    – Pep: What are you doing! Don’t you know his legs are insured for 100 million euros?
    – Iniesta: We’re losing him! We’re losing him!
    – Pep and Puyol: Ahhhhhhh!!! Save him!
    – Iniesta: No. I mean we’re losing him because he’s escaping.
    – Messi: I want to be taken to a real doctor!
    – Iniesta: Calm down. I can cure you. *to the other guys* Turn off the lights.
    *Iniesta uses his healing powers*
    – Iniesta: Its done. I have expunged all the evil. Now its only a grade 1 injury. With any luck, he’ll be ready for the Inter game.
    – Pep: Miracle!
    – Puyol: Iniesta, how did you do that?
    – Iniesta: Well, the truth is that I was struck by lightning when I was a kid. That’s why I am so pale, I shine like a Gusiluz (in reference to the classic Puto Gusiluz skit), and have healing powers. Oh, yeah, if you plug something into my ear, it works.
    – Puyol *takes the radio and plugs it into Iniesta’s ear.* Ostia! Its true! I’m gonna go get my cell phone so you can charge my battery.
    – Iniesta: I knew I should not have told him.

    • luna
      December 14, 2009

      I love that one! And I believe that clip of music they play is Depeche Mode, Behind the Wheel. Iniesta is hands down my favorite player. From the Messi character I love how he hogs the ball, and does his little “move”… Needless to say Puyol is great and his sheep too!

  32. Kxevin
    December 14, 2009

    6 months out for Pepe. Ouch. Bummer. We should all empathize, given our Milito situation.

    • December 14, 2009

      true true, I did make a subtle dig earlier, but like someone said, you wouldn’t wish on anyone to miss out on the world cup. I hope he can recover by then.

      • ballbeav
        December 14, 2009

        peepee, sorry, next time save your body by not raking your cleats across dude’s back.

        florentino perez = lamehuevo

        for those that speak some castellano, no se si se acuerdan del indiocito Solari, the argentine, for me he was one of the more likeable merengues hace un tiempo, of course he was let go and now he is with Atalante, and he says “I’m ex-madrid you, but you have to take your hat off to Barca.”

        • ballbeav
          December 14, 2009

          oops here is the solari link on FCB official site:

  33. jordi
    December 14, 2009

    Dinho looking good recently.


    • Flippy
      December 14, 2009

      AC Milan might become a force in the second half of the season when:
      a) Huntelaar gains a spot instead of Borrielo
      b) Beckham comes to provide assists as well as Ronnie
      c) Their defense gets better.
      A front line of Hunter and Pato supported by Seedorf, Beckham, Ronnie is just scary.

  34. Eduard
    December 14, 2009

    I didn’t think the percent of yes would be so high. 95% of the population that participated in the referendum voted Yes for independence. That’s really high as the turn-out was higher then the turn-out for normal elections. However, to be fair, the elections only took place in counties that were more pro-indenpence. Still, the Spanish Gov’t has to take notice of this. Catalonia already has much autonomy and this might help the cause for those who completely want to separate.

  35. Kari
    December 14, 2009

    Confirmed: Luis Suarez wants to play for Barca.


    I’m still hoping for Silva though…

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